Hutch backs fibre-in-sewer company started by ex Geo executives

20 August 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison has backed a UK company that is developing ways of installing fibre networks in water pipes and sewers.

And key members of the team at the company, Nuron, were previously at Geo Networks, the dark fibre company that Hutch backed until Zayo bought it in 2014.

Among them are former Geo CEO Chris Smedley, who is now investor director at Nuron, and founding director Mike Ainger, who was COO at Geo. In addition Nuron’s managing director, Claire Fenwick, was procurement director at Geo, and Louise Keogh was customer network engineering manager at Geo and then Zayo, and is now commercial manager at Nuron.

Nuron, set up in 2014, says it has developed a robotic system that enables fibre networks to be “deployed faster and more cost effectively” than with conventional techniques.

Fenwick said: “Our technology helps water companies optimise the management of their assets and support our digital economy. CK Hutchison shares our vision and appetite and their investment will enable our growth to deliver our capability to customers at scale.”

Nuron is “exploring how its robots and fibre laying technologies can augment CK Hutchison’s telecommunications infrastructure”, said the company, which is carrying out trials at Northumbrian Water, a utility in the north-east of England that is owned by Hutch.

The idea of putting fibre into sewers is not new. It was first discussed in the early 1980s by a supplier to the UK cable TV industry, but Geo took it further: part of its network in London runs along the inner walls of Thames Water’s sewers that were built in the 1860s and 1870s. Another carrier, SSE Telecom, also uses Thames Water sewers.

Nuron’s portfolio of products and services includes fibre technology to monitor the use of sewers. Peter Bourke, Hutch’s head of group information systems, said: “I am very excited about the potential Nuron has to transform the operations of both water systems and telecommunications networks. The technology complements our telecommunications and water company strategies and the timing couldn’t be better.”